Two law firms made €5m each from State agency in 2016

Claims agency paid €37m to legal representatives in negligence cases last year

Two legal firms specialising in medical negligence cases last year each received more than €5 million in fees from the State Claims Agency (SCA).

The payment of €5.7 million to Wicklow firm Augustus Cullen Law and €5 million to Cork firm Ernest Cantillon is part of a total payout of €37 million to firms representing people taking negligence cases against the State in 2016.

The payments to plaintiffs’ solicitors last year represented a 15 per cent increase on the €32 million paid out to plaintiffs’ firms in 2015.

In a written Dáil reply to Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said Callan Tansey Solicitors received €2 million with Sheridan Quinn receiving €910,850 in fees.

The amount paid out to legal firms representing the agency in cases increased by 13 per cent, from €13.2 million to €15.3 million.

Hayes Solicitors and Mason Hayes & Curran Solicitors each received €3 million, with Ronan Daly Jermyn receiving €2.2 million and Comyn Kelleher Tobin Solicitors receiving €1.3 million.

A spokesman for the SCA said yesterday legal fees last year increased year on year as the agency handled more claims, in line with recent extensions to its remit.

Dáil reply

In his Dáil reply, Mr Noonan stated: “The level of legal costs paid to plaintiffs’ legal representatives is carefully reviewed and, wherever possible and by means of negotiations, the SCA seeks to achieve the maximum possible reduction in legal costs.”

Michael Boylan, managing partner and head of medical negligence at Augustus Cullen Law, said the sums paid out to firms includes barristers’ fees and medical expert fees along with other expert fees and VAT at 23 per cent.

Mr Boylan said Augustus Cullen Law is the firm with the largest medical negligence practice in the country with a specialist team of 10 lawyers, including three partners in a 22-strong department at the firm working on such cases.